The first half of the 2021 MLB season officially concluded this week as teams hit the All-Star break. Several teams have separated themselves as favorites in each league and a number of individual performances have been incredible in a wild first half.
Here's a look at our bold predictions for the second half of the season.
Fernando Tatis Jr. Will Join the 40-40 Club
Fernando Tatis Jr. will become the fifth member of the 40-40 club this season. The San Diego Padres superstar is already well on his way and he'll keep up his torrid pace in the second half.
Tatis finished the first half leading the National League in both home runs (28) and stolen bases (20) despite only playing in 74 of the Padres' 93 games. He missed those contests due to a shoulder injury, a stint on the COVID IL and a few days off. Imagine where he'd be without the injuries.
He's going to be the first 40-40 guy since Alfonso Soriano in 2006 and could even become the first member of the 50-40 club.
New York Yankees Make the Playoffs
Bronx skies have been falling since Opening Day as expectations have far outpaced results. Aaron Boone is being fired with regularity from Tri-State dens as though everyone is taking part in a George Steinbrenner fantasy camp. Eyebrows remain raised in regards to Gerrit Cole's spin rate and lack of production. But despite all that, the Yankees find themselves very much alive for a Wild Card spot, trailing Oakland by 4.5 games. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton can, at any time, become the most fearsome boppers in all of baseball and DJ LeMahieu has too good a body of work to struggle for a full 162-game campaign.
With some more reliable pitching and a consistent Aroldis Chapman, New York can be a legitimate contender for the pennant as long as they earn a berth.
Walker Buehler Quietly Posts an All-Time Season
Let's say Buehler replicates his first-half numbers, posting an 18-2 record with sub-1.00 WHIP and ERA hovering around 2.25. Will anyone remember it, or will this forever be known as the summer of Jacob deGrom? If so, that will be a shame. Last October's breakout star figures to be the anchor of a Dodgers rotation as they seek to repeat and has proven himself more than capable of carrying the load.
When the dust settles on this year, he may be the consensus No. 2 arm in the sport, with ample team hardware to boot. Let's get crazy and project a remarkable stretch run that gets him to 20 wins.
Giants Fade, Dodgers Win NL West
The San Francisco Giants couldn't seem to lose games in the first half. At the break they have the best record in baseball (57-32). Every time the Padres or Los Angeles Dodgers got on a hot streak in the first half, San Francisco somehow kept them at arm's length in the NL West. That will change in the second half.
The Giants are relying on a number of guys having career-years, which screams "second half regression." Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeScalfani and Steven Duggar are all playing way above their preseason projections. Water almost always finds its level in these situations.
Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria will return in the second half, but the Dodgers will be getting Corey Seager back and everyone is waiting for the inevitable Mookie Betts offensive explosion. Unless the Giants swing big at the trade deadline, their lead over the Dodgers won't hold.
The Trade Deadline Will Be Nuts
The gap between the haves and the have-nots is clear across baseball right now and that should lead to a crazy arms race at the trade deadline. Expect Max Scherzer, Trevor Story, Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, Eduardo Escobar, Adam Frazier, Nelson Cruz and Starling Marte to all be on the block. All of the players listed have been All-Stars and most of them will be moved.
With so many injuries across baseball this season, virtually every contender has holes that need to be filled. It's going to be a seller's market, so expect a lot of movement and some league-changing trades.
Chicago White Sox Win AL Pennant
The Chicago White Sox have been building a contender for years and it will all come together this year. With Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert on tract to return from injury and rejoin the team with the AL's best record, the Sox are only going to get better.
Perhaps most impressive has been Chicago's pitching staff, as Lance Lynn (9-3, 1.99 ERA) and Carlos Rodon (7-3, 2.31 ERA) have been elite. Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito have struggled but both are likely second-half bounce-back candidates. Liam Hendricks (2.75 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) has been lights out closing games as well.
The White Sox are seventh across MLB in OPS (.757) and fourth in runs scored (456), while the pitching staff ranks eighth in ERA (3.58) They're going to outlast the Houston Astros in the AL and reach the World Series for the first time since 2005.
Jacob deGrom Will Win the NL MVP Award
Jacob deGrom entered the break with a 7-2 record, and leads the National League with a 1.08 ERA, a 0.54 WHIP and is second with 146 strikeouts in 92 innings pitched. Despite missing a few starts with arm issues, he's still been baseball's best pitcher this season. In fact, he's been the best pitcher on the planet for a few years now. Expect that to continue.
DeGrom is utterly unhittable. He's allowed more than two runs in only two of his 15 starts this season and has allowed no runs in eight. He's also topped 10 strikeouts in seven starts. His ERA for the month of April was 0.51, and in June it was 0.67.
If the Mets win the NL East, deGrom will not only win the NL Cy Young Award, he'll also take home NL MVP honors.